Georgetown University SATs and the Cuban Missile Crisis Discussion

Georgetown University SATs and the Cuban Missile Crisis Discussion


 At what points in 1962 could IC analysts have employed SATs to strengthen their understanding of Soviet activities in Cuba and to provide greater warning to policymakers about the potential course of events? Which SATs should they have used?

The U.S. Intelligence Community published four intelligence estimates prior to the Cuban Missile Crisis in October 1962, all of which underestimated the Soviets’ intentions to install strategic weapons in Cuba.

  • January 17, 1962, The Threat to U.S. Security Interests in the Caribbean Area (SNIE 80-62): Establishment of Soviet bases on Cuba is “unlikely for some time to come.”
  • March 21, 1962, The Situation and Prospects in Cuba (NIE 85-62): The USSR would “almost certainly never intend to hazard its own safety for the sake of Cuba.”
  • August 1, 1962, The Situation and Prospects in Cuba (NIE 85-2-62): It is “unlikely” that the Soviet Bloc will station “Bloc combat units of any description” in Cuba, at least over the next year.
  • September 19, 1962, The Military Buildup in Cuba (SNIE 85-3-62): Despite evidence of significant Soviet buildup, “Soviet policy remains fundamentally unaltered.” (A portion of this SNIE is available by clicking here

On October 15, 1962—a mere three weeks after the September SNIE was published—photos from a U2 spy plane revealed that the Soviets had installed intermediate-range missiles in Cuba. Long-range missiles were discovered two days later.

  1. David T. Moore, “Critical Thinking and Intelligence Analysis”Links to an external site.. Center for Strategic Intelligence Research, National Defense Intelligence College. Washington D.C. 2007, pp. 20-47.
  2. Jonathan Renshon, “Mirroring Risk: The Cuban Missile Estimation”.Links to an external site. Intelligence and National Security, Vol. 24, No. 3 (2009), pp. 315-338.
  3. Sherman Kent, “Cuban Missile Crisis:  A Crucial Estimate RelivedLinks to an external site.” first published as a SECRET paper in Studies in Intelligence (1964). Declassified and republished in 1992 by Central Intelligence Agency, pp. 111-119.